Mighty Mites

by The Old Scott

When we look out on a green meadow or woodland, with summer breezes softly sighing and all appears to be at rest, it's hard to imagine the savage battles for survival that go on-often right beneath our noses.

Take, for example, the tiny shrew.  What? Don't know anything about shrews?  Then let me introduce you to one of the fiercest fighters in the animal kingdom.  A hungry shrew will unhesitatingly launch itself at animals three or four times its own size, and have them for lunch-or dinner, or breakfast, or in-between meals.

If you live at all in or near the country, you may have seen dead shrews.  Your cat may even have dragged one home; but you thought it was simply a small mouse. 

While shrews do resemble mice, there are some fantastic differences.  For example, shrews are always in a hurry! In fact, everything about them is speeded up-even their appetite! Most shrews have to eat their own weight in food every day, or they will literally starve to death. Some will die in just seven hours if they don't find food.

The reason they need to eat so often is their system burns so much energy they have to keep renewing the supply. Shrews breathe ten times faster than humans, and they move so fast it's hard to follow their movements, even if they are in a cage.  That is one reason so few people are ever aware of them. Actually, shrews can be found in most of the world's populated areas.

How fierce are shrews?  In one experiment, a North American pygmy shrew-weighing about as much as a U.S. dime-gobbled up in a l0-day period 20 houseflies, 2 crane flies, 1 beetle, 22 grasshoppers, 3 mice (each many times its size!) and 21 other shrews.  That's hungry! That's also cannibalism, of course, but a hungry shrew cares nothing for such moral considerations.

A researcher once put five baby water shrews (water shrews are a little larger than pygmies) in a cage with a grown frog.  He quickly ended the experiment, however, when the shrews began eating the frog alive.

"The poor frog croaked heartrendingly," he said, "as the shrews munched audibly in chorus."  Shrews have also been known to attack birds, snakes, lizards, and moles, though insects make up their usual menu.

We might ask why God made shrews, and why He made them the way they are.  One of the great principles God uses to run the world is balance. We can imagine, for instance, what would happen if there were no controls over houseflies.  They would very quickly make our lives utterly miserable-just as they made Pharaoh's life miserable when God sent huge swarms of flies to torment him for refusing to let God's people leave Egypt (Ex. 8:24-32.). Shrews are one of the ways God keeps flies and other insects in balance. 

If we investigate closely, we will find that our world is in fact a wonderfully balanced ecosystem. God made it that way, and pronounced it "good." But if the system doesn't always work as God intended, we-mankind-have only ourselves to blame. We introduced sin into the world, and it is the products of sin that are spoiling Earth.


Wild Animals of North America, National Geographic Society, Wash., D.C., 1979, p. 42.

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